Implications for campus safety lessons learned from critical incidents at colleges and universities
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Implications for Campus Safety: Lessons Learned from Critical Incidents at Colleges and Universities. Presented by: Inspector Ronald Ellis School & Campus Security Training Program. “THERE CANNOT BE A CRISIS TODAY, MY SCHEDULE IS FULL” Henry Kissinger.

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Implications for Campus Safety:Lessons Learned from Critical Incidents at Colleges and Universities

Presented by:

Inspector Ronald Ellis

School & Campus Security

Training Program

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Planning for Incidents Involving Violence

  • Northern Illinois University

  • Virginia Tech

  • Nickel Mines, Pa

  • Bailey, Colorado

  • Red Lake, Minnesota

  • Beslan, Russia

  • Columbine, Colorado

  • Jonesboro, Arkansas

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Key Lessons

  • The Incident Command System works best when used to its full capacity

  • Federal, state, and local partnerships are essential for successful response and recovery in large-scale incidents

  • Interoperable communications are essential and must be strengthened

  • Strong media and public relations are key

  • Plan must provide for immediate victim services and mental health needs in emergencies

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Key Lessons

  • Institutions should regularly review physical security infrastructure

  • Higher education institutions should create behavioral threat assessment teams

  • Institutions should create inter-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional Campus Violence Prevention Plan

    • Determine committee structure of persons charged with education and prevention of violence on campus

    • Integrating existing campus programs dealing with associated issues into the violence prevention plan

      (e.g., suicide prevention, anti-bullying, sexual assault prevention, workplace violence etc.)

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Lessons Learned: Incident Command

  • Incorporate the Principles of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) in the Response

    • Used for responding to any type or size emergency

    • ICS is the management system within NIMS and framework for all emergency responders

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Lesson Learned: Incident Command (cont.)

  • Establish an Incident Command Post at the Onset of the Emergency with Unified Command structure

    • Located at or near the incident site

    • Headquarters for directing tactical operations

      • Assign additional staff to assist IC

      • Key ICS personnel should wear labeled color vests

      • Assign scribe to document all IC actions/decisions

      • Monitor all forms of communication

      • Assign technology/communication staff to ICP

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Lessons Learned Campus Emergency Management

  • A Unified Command Post should be established.

  • A Unified Command Post should be staffed by those having statutory authority.

    • In shooting incidents, law enforcement would be the lead agency.

  • The Unified Command should communicate directly with EOC and policymaking group.

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Lessons Learned: Law Enforcement Response

  • An Active Shooter incident creates challenge for incoming resources


    • 1st officer on-scene after initial entry team should establish command

    • Officer should transfer command as needed

    • Establish and secure the Incident Command Post as soon as practical in expanding incidents with multiple agencies

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Lessons LearnedLaw Enforcement Response

  • Campus police everywhere should train with local law enforcement agencies on response to active shooters and other emergencies.

  • Police should escort survivors out of buildings, where circumstances and manpower permit.

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Lessons Learned: Communications

  • Incorporate Communications Equipment and Procedures into All Emergency Management Plans and Trainings

    • Requires coordination, communication and sharing of information among all first responders and agencies involved in the response

    • Communication failures are likely if agencies do not have shared frequencies

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Lessons Learned:Campus Emergency Management

  • Failure to open an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will lead to communications and coordination issues during the incident.

    • The EOC is usually located at a pre-designated site that can be quickly activated having 2 main goals:

      • Support emergency responders

      • Ensure continuity of operations within campus community

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Campus Emergency Management Lessons Learned

  • The EOC should NOT function as the incident commander.

  • The policy making group should function within the EOC.

  • A Joint Information Center should be established within the EOC to coordinate all public information.

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Lessons Learned:Public Relations/Media Relations

  • Activate a Media Communications Plan at the Onset of the Incident

    • The core of a media plan is designation of a PIO, who serves as liaison between IC, the media and public

    • Any delay in establishing PIO can cause frustration for the media and public

    • Availability of correct and timely information is essential

    • Consider pre-approved media releases

    • Designate media staging areas

    • Schedule regular briefings

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Lessons Learned:Victim Services / Mental Health

  • Establish a Plan to Address Immediate Mental Health Needs of Students & Staff


    • Strengthen Victim Advocate services through increased training

    • Develop Procedure for use of Critical Incident Stress Management in school emergencies

    • Work with community partners to provide short- and long-term support for students/families

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Lessons Learned:Campus Emergency Planning

  • Check exterior door hardware to ensure that they are not subject to being chained shut.

  • Classrooms and offices should be able to be locked from the inside.

  • Take bomb threats seriously. Students and staff should report them immediately, even if most do turn out to be false alarms.

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Lessons Learned: Campus Emergency Alerting

  • Campus emergency communications systems must have multiple means of sharing information.

  • In an emergency, immediate messages must be sent to the campus community that provide clear information on the nature of the emergency and actions to be taken.

  • Campus police as well as administration officials should have the authority and capability to send an emergency message.

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Lessons Learned:Campus Operations & Emergency Planning

  • School Emergency Plans should have traffic control plan for evacuation points and back-up locations

  • Consider the Needs of Students & Staff with Disabilities

    • Students/staff with disabilities may require additional support and considerations during an emergency requiring evacuation

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Campus Setting and Security Police Role & Training Recommendations

  • The head of campus police should be a member of a threat assessment team as well as the emergency response team for the college / university.

  • Campus police must report directly to the senior campus operations officer responsible for emergency decision- making.

  • The mission statement of campus police should give primacy to their law enforcement and crime prevention role.

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Campus Emergency Operations Planning Recommendations

  • Universities should do a risk analysis (threat assessment) and then choose a level of security appropriate for their campus.

  • Institutions of higher learning should have a Threat Assessment Team that includes representatives from:

    • law enforcement;

    • human resources;

    • student and academic affairs;

    • legal counsel; and

    • mental health services.

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Campus Emergency Operations Planning Recommendations

  • Students, faculty, and staff should be trained annually about responding to various emergencies and about the notification systems that will be used.

  • Universities and colleges must comply with the Clery Act, which requires timely public warnings of imminent danger.

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Campus Emergency PlanEmergency Supply Bin

Medical Supplies, Water

Tools, Protective Gear

Generator, Lighting

Emergency Radio

Portable Toilets

Sanitation Supplies


ICS Checklists, Maps

Triage Kits

Mega Phones

LED Flashlights

AM/FM Radios

Water Preserver

Hard Hats

ICS Vests

Privacy Shelters

Forms (Accountability, Reunification, and Medical Treatment)

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Campus Mental Health ServicesRecommendations

  • Colleges and Universities must have a system that links troubled students to :

    • appropriate medical and counseling services;

    • either on or off campus; and

    • balance individual’s rights with rights of all others for safety.

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Campus Mental Health Services Recommendations

  • Universities should promote the sharing of student information internally, and with the student’s family, when significant circumstances pertaining to health and safety arise.

  • Incidents of aberrant, dangerous, or threatening behavior must be documented and reported immediately to a college’s threat assessment group, and must be acted upon in a prompt and effective manner to protect the safety of the campus community.

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Campus Mental Health Services Recommendations

  • Policies and procedures should be implemented to require professors and staff encountering aberrant, dangerous, or threatening behavior from a student to report them to a designated official.

  • Reporting requirements must be clearly established and reviewed during annual training.

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Campus Emergency Management Recovery Recommendations

  • Recovery plans should include a section on victim services that addresses the significant impact of homicide and other disaster-related deaths on:

    - survivors; and

    - the role of victim service providers.

  • When a family assistance center is created after a mass casualty event, victim advocates should be called in immediately.

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Campus Emergency Management Recovery Recommendations

  • Both short- and long-term counseling should be made available to first responders, students, staff, faculty members, and university leaders.

  • Universities and colleges should work with their local government partners to improve plans for mutual aid in all areas of crisis response, including that of victim services.

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Thank You

Ronald Ellis

School & Campus Security Training Program

Illinois Terrorism Task Force

Illinois Campus Security Task Force

Illinois State Board of Education

[email protected]